Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Disciple To Purpose

Over the past three years, as I have moved the work of business development under the umbrella of the Church, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many, many pastors and church leaders. It is very clear to me that pastors and church leaders are passionate about transformation.  They long and desire to see people transformed, families transformed, communities transformed, and nations transformed for the glory of God.  But I am also beginning to learn of the challenges of transformation from within the church.  In order for transformation to take place, there needs to be knowledge and application.  In my interviews with churches, I am seeing multiple ways that the knowledge of transformation is being given:  through discipleship classes, marriage and parenting classes, evangelism classes, and so on.  The challenge comes in the application.

The formula again:  Transformation = Knowledge + Application.

In my recent visit to Kenya to find out about the application of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry, we interviewed churches that had upwards of forty programs and departments. These churches are keeping their church members very busy in the church, going from class to committee to program.  It occurred to us that some churches keep their members so busy with gaining knowledge, that there is very little time or energy for application outside the four walls of the church.  I ran across this quote that underlined what we were observing: "The devil doesn't care if you go to church or read your Bible, as long as you don't apply it to your life."

The church needs to practice discipleship like Jesus. Jesus taught, but also sent his disciples out to proclaim and even bring the Kingdom of God. Discipleship is not merely about learning but also about transformation which comes through application. That is it's purpose - there has to be a practical outworking and application of the knowledge received in the teaching ministries of the church.  Discipleship without application is knowledge and keeping people busy, but doesn't lead to transformation.

Here are some calculations on our use of time during our key productive years from 20-65 years of age.  There is a total of 400,000 hours.  That time breaks down to 42% at work; 16% with family and friends; 33% sleeping; 5% eating; and 4% at church (based on 7 hours per week, which is generous).  The minority of our time is spent at church.  The majority of our time is spent at work, yet is rare to find a church discipling people to purpose in their place of work.  Instead we build a department for evangelism, rather than equipping people to being evangelists in their place of work.  We disciple people about how to read the Bible, but neglect to show how the Bible points to the Creation Mandate and how we should do our work in the workplace.  The sacred/secular split continues to be a wide gap, where people take off their "Christian" hat on Monday - Saturday, and replace it with their secular hat.  There has been little to no discipling to purpose for how we spend the majority of time in the world.  Yet, we have discipled people to purpose in terms of marriage, family, and church. 

Upon my return to Grand Rapids, Michael and I took a couple of days to ourselves, as is becoming our habit when we are separated for extended periods.  He took me to see the movie, "The Big Short," which is about the economic recession of 2008 (thumbs up on the movie - great cast).  It was amazing to see the overt greed and complacency of people involved in banking, housing, Wall Street, and real estate. It reminded me that this is what happens when we separate faith from our work.  When asked about some of the wrong-doing, several answered that it was "what everyone was doing."  The ripple effect of this greed hurt significant numbers of people in this country and beyond.  It underlined (with an exclamation mark!!!) the need for us as a Church to disciple to purpose.  We need people purposely resisting the temptations found in the Marketplace, with support, backing, equipping, and discipling by the Church. 

This is the work to which I believe God has called me to be an ambassador.  Discipling Marketplace Leaders is one aspect of where transformation can take place in businesses, with rippling effects to communities and nations.

One of the highlights of the recent trip to Kenya was signing a Memorandum of Understanding with CMS  (Connecting Mission Services Africa) with Rev. Dennis Tongoi.  I view Rev. Tongoi as one of the fathers of the Business as Mission movement and have great respect for him.  So for him to find usefulness in the Discipling Marketplace Leaders material and want to bring it to the churches with whom he works in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and the DR Congo is very exciting.  I look forward to learn even more about what he and his team learn as they roll this out.

Please pray with us for the churches who are starting this work.  There does seem to be a lot of spiritual warfare around this.  I don't think Satan does want us to figure out how to apply this in the workplace.  We need and covet your prayers for those pastors and churches applying this, as well as for those business people who are seeing themselves as Marketplace Ministers, representing Christ in their workplace. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Feedback and Tweaks

DML Team at King Jesus in Bungoma, starting DML in April
When starting a new program, ongoing learning and listening is very important.  The Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) ministry is now three years old - the age of a toddler in many ways - and there is much to learn.  So I am in my third week in Kenya at this time, and have completed many hours of interviews to learn what is working and what is not.
Meeting with the DML cooperative in Kisumu

The exciting news is that in all the interviews with pastors who are implementing this work in their church, 100% have said that they have seen increases in the following three areas:  members, participation of business people in the ministry of the church, and giving.  That is exciting.  We heard testimony after testimony of members and pastors sharing how people are implementing various aspects of the quadruple bottom line in their business:  reaching out spiritually as Marketplace Ministers to people around them, socially to the community and employees, working to care for the environment, and growing economically.

It has also been interesting to see which pastors completely own this ministry as their own and are setting the pace and vision for how this ministry can grow, develop, and more forward. There is something called the "Innovation adoption curve" that shows the percent of people who can expect to run with a new product, those who join later, and those who are the laggards.  We clearly are seeing some of the innovators as well as some early adopters.  We want to be intentional to continue to learn from those early innovators for what works and what does not.  We are also seeing churches who are welcoming DML into their church but are not owning it for themselves.  Because it is difficult to have pastors come to Kitale for an eight day training on the theological foundation of Business as Mission (as we used to require), we are now introducing a two-day intensive training for pastors that will be offered in the various regions where we are working.  We hope that will increase the buy-in by the pastors and bishops of the various denominations.  The other challenge we have is that business people get this very quickly and want us to begin training yesterday.  But we need to hold off on their demands until we can get the church leadership on board, especially if we want this to be about discipleship and not just another program or training.

So, it's's's being open and flexible to God's leading as He continues to unfold how this ministry can be used to build His church. 
Dr. Walker with one of the many bishops with whom we met, who has planted 100 churches.
After working in Kenya for over three years, I finally had my first sighting of Lake Victoria, with two of my favorite brothers, Rev. Elly Kisala and Rev. Johnfred Ajwang
The obligatory flat tire on our way from Kisumu to Mumias, to meet with a Deliverance Church in Mumias

Friday, March 18, 2016

"Be the Captain of your own Crunch"

Bob-isms.  Those of us who knew Bob, heard many of them.

This Sunday,  March 20, it will be six years since Bob left us.  I received this thoughtful and beautiful email just a couple of weeks ago (and received permission to post it).

Hi Renita….my name is Rod Hoekert.   I believe I only met you one time when you and Bob were living in the Grand Rapids area (mid 90’s possibly?).  I was a resident assistant at Calvin College when Bob was my resident director…back in 1985/86.  I totally lost touch with Bob and I am so sad to come across his obituary and your blog (I googled him) regarding his death back in 2010.  I was in a bible study at church this morning and one of our challenges was to reach out to someone in your past who had a positive influence on our lives, specifically our spiritual lives.  I immediately thought of Bob and how much he helped me mature in my faith, specifically remembering back to a bible study (Ephesians) he lead for the 6 of us (RA’s) in the dorm.  I’ll always remember him being a lover of the Mac computer well before its time.  He had the greatest sense of humor and I’ll never forget some of his sayings such as “be the captain of your own crunch”….or all of the times he would ask to have a lick of someone’s ice cream cone and he’d bite off the bottom of the cone & hand it back to the shocked person.  He always made me laugh!
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell him thank you for everything….. before he left this earth but I’m sure he is hearing me now…I look forward to some day seeing him again.  I wanted you to know that he is not forgotten…that he was a special man…and just because he has been gone for nearly 6 years…that he is remembered in great ways!  I’m sorry I never got to know you or your children but I wanted you to know that I am praying for you all…especially as his anniversary (of his passing) is a couple weeks away.
Rod Hoekert
In this email was a delightful Bob-ism that I hadn't heard before:  "Be the captain of your own crunch."   I love it!  And it made me start to wonder what other Bob-isms are out there that Hannah, Noah, and I don't know?  So let me ask those of you who knew Bob to send those to me at so that we can enjoy them together.

Let me get you started with some of our favorites, to prod your memory:
  • "Don't 'should' on yourself."
  • "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with b*llsh %t."
  • To Hannah:  "Silence the old hag in your head."
  • "It's all about the war." (spoken in a low, Darth Vader type voice) 

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Problem with Entrepreneurship in Africa

I was sent this discouraging link by a friend...and unfortunately it makes a lot of sense. Can business development truly solve problems in Africa? According to this Kenyan, it can't. Read below and pray with me as I leave for Kenya on Wednesday to continue working toward business development under the umbrella of the church.

Ory Okolloh explains why Africa can’t entrepreneur itself out of its basic problems

One of Kenya’s best known tech investors Ory Okolloh has thrown cold water on the push for entrepreneurship and innovation on the continent. “You can’t entrepreneur around bad leadership, we can’t entrepreneur around bad policy,” Okolloh said, criticizing what she called the “fetishization” of entrepreneurship and neglect of fundamental problems hampering African countries. “There is growth in Africa but Africans are not growing,” she said echoing earlier comments she has made.

Speaking at the Quartz Africa Innovator’s summit yesterday, (Sept 14), Okolloh said:
“I’m concerned about what I see is the fetishization around entrepreneurship in Africa. It’s almost like it’s the next new liberal thing. Like, don’t worry that there’s no power because hey, you’re going to do solar and innovate around that. Your schools suck, but hey there’s this new model of schooling. Your roads are terrible, but hey, Uber works in Nairobi and that’s innovation.
During the Greek bail out, no one was telling young Greek people to go and be entrepreneurs. Europe has been stuck at 2% or 1% growth. I don’t see any any entrepreneurship summit in Europe telling them you know, go out there and be entrepreneurs. I feel that there’s a sense that oh, resilience and you know, innovate around things—it’s distracting us from dealing with fundamental problems that we cannot develop.

We can’t entrepreneur our way around bad leadership. We can’t entrepreneur our way around bad policies. Those of us who have managed to entrepreneur ourselves out of it are living in a very false security in Africa. There is growth in Africa, but Africans are not growing. And we have to questions why is there this big push for us to innovate ourselves around problems that our leaders, our taxes, our policymakers, ourselves, to be quite frankly, should be grappling with.

… I think sometimes we are running away from dealing with the really hard things. And the same people who are pushing this entrepreneurship and innovation thing are coming from places where your roads work, your electricity works, your teachers are well paid. I didn’t see anyone entrepreneur-ing around public schooling in the US. You all went to public schools, you know, and then made it to Harvard or whatever. You turned on your light and it came on. No one is trying to innovate around your electricity power company. So why are we being made to do that? Our systems need to work and we need to figure our s*#t out.”